March 29, 2007

Huge Dubyas

Big win for the Raptors tonight at home against the Heat. They went with a small lineup and simply dominated Miami, who just aren't the same without D-Wade in the backcourt.

Anthony Parker was huge, but it was a total team effort with six guys scoring in double figures, including all five starters. Everyone contributed, just like Mitchell said they would have to.

Shoutout to the The Hump. He pulled down 10 boards in 27 minutes, and seven of them were offensive rebounds. Still can't believe we got this guy for Hoffa. It will amaze me till the day I die.

With every passing game, I grow fonder of Rasho Nesterovic. He is the centre I have always dreamed about playing for the Toronto Raptors. Nothing flashy, but he just gets the job done. He's played guys like Shaq and Dwight Howard amazingly well this year. He knows what is expected of him at the offensive end, and he's the leader on the defensive end. Rasho's a rudey.

As of tonight, the Raptors are in third place in the East. That means home-advantage in the first round, and the Raptors are dynamite at the ACC.

Huge win by the Leafs over the Hurricanes. A solid beating, one that was well-earned and due. The Canes lost to the Flyers tonight. These guys don't look like they're going to be in the race much longer.

Chad Kilger has finally found a permanent home with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Love the guy.

Kaberle is back and Kaberle is healthy. He's a genuis with the puck out on the ice. Simply adore the guy.

Jeff O'Neill, get comfortable in the press box my man. The Leafs are a much better team when O'Neill is out of the lineup. I'm tired of the guy.

Boyd Devereaux has earned a spot on the Leafs for next season. Great signing by JFJ. Everyone has got to love this guy because he's been just a pleasant surprise.

Another big game Thursday night against the Thrashers. The Leafs have six more games, they can afford to lose only one. They need to play just like they did Tuesday night - aggressive, assertive and hard. Leave it all out on the ice, boys.

On a side note, I can't believe baseball's regular season kicks off Monday afternoon. Where the hell did the off-season go? Time flies.

I'm worried about the Jays. Especially the bullpen.

But I'm excited about the Leafs making the post-season, hopefully, and the Raptors. Tonight's win over the Heat was for Garbo. Get well soon, amigo.

Goodnight Toronto...

March 27, 2007

The Injury Plague Strikes Again...

I can still hear Jorge Garbajosa screaming.

The MLSE Injury Plague has struck once again.

The Raptors lost last night to the pitiful Boston Celtics, but they lost much more, as Jorge Garbajosa is done for the year after breaking his leg.

The Raptors haven't said that Garbo is done, or that he broke is leg, but I saw it live, so believe me. He's done.

This was one of those freak injuries. I'm talking Carlos Beltran's face smacking into Mike Cameron's face at full speed; that type of freak injury. That's the last one I can remember seeing that left me feeling a bit queasy (like I just had a poutine from Burger King).

The ironic part is that the injury only happened because Garbo works so bloody hard. Damn him and his excellent work ethic. He raced down the floor after a Raptors miss and tried his hardest to contest a slam dunk by Al Jefferson. The Raps were down by eight and needed some stops, so Garbo was out there busting his ass. Anything less, for Garbo, would be uncivilized. Garbo went up, there was contact with Jefferson, and he came crushing down on his left leg.

It buckled.

It broke.

And, oh my, it was not pretty.

As soon as Garbo hit the floor he knew he was in trouble and signalled for the bench. Then he looked at his leg. Then he started screaming.

It's tough to pick up sounds off the court on tv, but I could hear loud and clear on my television that this man was in serious agony. Everyone in that arena could hear Garbo's shrieks. It was tough to watch.

Jose Calderon was the first one on the scene at Garbo's side and he knew his teammate, and fellow Spaniard, was in big trouble. He clutched Garbo's head and it was clear that Calderon was struggling with the fact that he couldn't help his fallen comrade.

Calderon did the right thing, however, by grabbing a towel from the towel boy to cover up Garbajosa's twisted leg. It was tough enough to hear Garbo's screams full of anguish. Nobody needed to see his leg lying twisted the wrong way.

To my astonishment, Sportsnet showed multiple replays of the injury. I don't know what the hell they're smoking over there, but really, no one needs to see that from multiple angles. We know it's bad. We get it. Thanks.

The depleted Raptors, who signed Luke Jackson (who?) to a 10-day contract on Sunday, are just getting clobbered with injuries right now. The ankle sprains are one thing, but this one is serious. Sam Mitchell and Co. just lost a key member of their starting rotation, surely for the rest of this season. When a guy goes down the way Garbo did, in such agony, you know he's not coming back anytime soon.

It was disturbing to watch Garbo practically go into shock and start screaming like a madman. Everyone on the Raptors bench had to turn away when they saw him come down. There's a feeling of helplessness like no other when you see a guy hit the floor like that. I thought the Raps might make a run and win the game for Garbo, but it just wasn't to be. The team played one of their weaker games all year, and after Garbo went down, the life went right out of them.

Garbo, although inconsistent most of the season, has been a true warrior for the Raptors. He plays hard every night and is one of the Raptors that hits the floor with regularity. He's always chasing down loose balls and doing whatever he can to help the team win. He doesn't know any other way. He could have jogged down the court last night and let Jefferson slam it uncontested, but that's not the Garbo way. He was going to do his best to block the shot, and that's why his season is over.

This is another tough pill for the Raptors to swallow, especially with the playoffs so close I can touch them. The ball club will address the media with the usual "it's time for someone else to step up," but this is a significant injury. The Raptors, remember, struggle at that thing called, what is it, rebounding. They just lost their second-best rebounder for the rest of the season, at 4.9 a game.

The Raptors have dealt with a lot of injuries this season - to pretty much all their top players (Bosh, Ford, Parker, Bargnani) - but this one, just the way it went down, man, it really hurts.
It sucks, but there's nothing that can be done about it. Someone really is going to have to step up and pick up Garbo's boards and his points.

The Raptors, like the Leafs, have proven to be resilient in the face of the MLSE Injury Plague. They've done a remarkable job and I am confident they will once again answer the call in the face of adversity. These aren't the Raptors of old; these guys are winners.

But please, no more injuries. The Raptors and Leafs have suffered enough. Damn you MLSE Injury Plague, damn you.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 25, 2007

Down, But Not Out...

Honestly, what can I say about Friday night's pathetic display by the Maple Leafs? I'm not sure who the voice of NBA Jam was, but whenever I threw up a brick, all I heard was:

"What a debacle!"

That's all I can say about Friday's third period. The Leafs were up 4-1 and had two points in the bag, and they self-desctructed. A 5-4 loss and two HUGE points lost in the standings. Two points the Leafs will surely look back upon as possibly the ones that cost them the season.

How a team can blow a 4-1 lead with 15 minutes left in the game is beyond me, but if any team can do it, it's the Toronto Maple Leafs. Shame on them. Shame on the Leafs for playing their worst 20 minutes all year when it mattered the most. Shame on Paul Maurice for not making a goalie change or calling a time-out. I think he was just as dumb-struck as I was that the Leafs blew the lead, because it's unfathomable that he didn't do anything to stop Buffalo's momentum and calm his boys down. Shame on Andrew Raycroft. I don't care how the goals go in, if a team gives its goalie a 4-1 lead with 15 minutes left, he's got to shut it down, anyway, anyhow, no questions asked.

A part of me was hoping the Leafs would lose last night. A part of me wanted to look back upon March 24th, 2007 as the day the dream - the Stanley Cup Dream of 2007 - died. The day the Leafs' playoff aspirations were dashed. After Friday night's performance I honestly just wanted to be put out of my misery. It's like I've been dying a slow and agonizing death. I wanted that fatal blow to be dropped upon me. I just wanted it to be over.

But no, the Leafs, once again, won't go quietly into the night, and I won't go quietly with them. Ironically, the Leafs were up 4-1 Saturday night, with 15 minutes left to play. Would they self-destruct again?

Friday night was, and let's be honest, one of those freak games. A freak comeback by the Sabres. It just happened at the most inopportune time, when it comes to Maple Leaf standards. The Leafs needed those two points, but it just wasn't meant to be. There's not much than can be done or said. Actually, nothing can be done.

A loss is a loss. It happened in shocking and dramatic fashion, but at the end of the night, it's a loss, just like all the other ones the Leafs have had this year.

Shit happens. You've just got to deal with it. The road to the playoffs is a lot more difficult at this point, after Friday's loss, but it is what it is.

The Leafs head into next week two points out of the 8th, and final, playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They took four out of a possible six points against New Jersey and back-to-back games against the Sabres. Not bad. Not bad at all. A loss is a loss is a loss. The Leafs forgot about it, bounced back, and are still in the race. I'm not sure I can ask for much else. Well, I could ask for a bloody playoff spot, but I guess that would just make me greedy.

Friday night is done and gone. Now it's all about next Tuesday, and a date with the 8th seed Carolina Hurricanes. That game, my friends, is the season. If the Leafs lose, they are all but officially done. If they win, they live to fight another day. This is the predicament the Leafs find themselves in. Lose and it's over, or win and nothing is guaranteed, but just another day to fight.
I commend the Leafs' fighting spirit. If they go down - it's actually more of a "when" - I'll be glad that they went down with a fight. It doesn't matter how bad a team goes out, nobody wants to bow down like bitches. You fight, until that last drop of blood has seeped out your skin, until that last breath has escaped your body.

This is all we, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, are left with. These last seven games of the regular season - these are my playoffs. I want the Leafs to scrap, compete and battle like every remaining game is game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, until the team is officially eliminated from post-season play. I want everything left on the ice. If the Leafs don't make the playoffs, so be it. I'll be content knowing that they went down giving it all they've got.

I'll give the team credit for bouncing back after such a demoralizing loss Friday night. I had to drink away the pain of Friday night's loss, and I'm sure guys like Darcy Tucker did as well.

Tuesday night's tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes looms large. There hasn't been playoff hockey in Toronto in two years, and we're on the brink of making it three years. I'll take Tuesday night's game as the playoff game of 2007. I'm looking forward to it.

I don't want the playoff race to end. I want the battle to rage on. I want it to come down to the last game of the regular season against the Montreal Canadiens. Win, and get in, or lose and go home. I want all the chips to be on the table. All-in, baby. I want it to come down to the final 60 minutes, and may the best team go on. Even after Friday's crushing defeat, I'm not ready to fold just yet, and if Saturday night was any indication, either are the Maple Leafs.

Cheers to the Leafs and all their fans out there. Here's to a couple more nights of simply staying alive. I'll take it.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 22, 2007

Statement Game

Take a good look at that picture - Chris Bosh actually looks like a dinosaur! He is a true Raptor. And he was dynamite last night against the Orlando Magic, thoroughly outplaying his all-star counterpart Dwight Howard.

It was a match up of two all-star big men - with nicknames that I love. CB4 against The Great Dwight Hope. When it comes to nicknames, I've got to go with Howard's, but when it comes to game, I'm with Bosh everyday of the week.

I'm not too sure where The Great Dwight Hope ranks on my favourite nicknames list, but it's up there. I do, however, know what comes in first on my least favourite nicknames list - The Big Fundamental. That's Tim Duncan's nickname. Amazingly, the nickname actually works - he really is The Big Fundamental. It's just so boring. Just like Duncan's game, I guess. But it's still the worst nickname ever.

Although the Raptors were facing an Orlando team with disappointing 31-37 record, this was, in fact, a statement game. My friends, I have bad news. The Raptors have been contaminated. The injury bug the Maple Leafs have suffered from all hockey season has been contracted by the Toronto Raptors. I can't even call this a bug anymore. It's a plague. The MLSE Injury Plague. It's wreaked havoc on the Raptors and Leafs all year long, and it struck mercilessly Tuesday night.

Word dropped Wednesday afternoon that Andrea Bargnani had emergency appendectomy surgery late Tuesday night. Out two to four weeks, at least. Big Rook, as he is so affectionately called by his teammates, will be sorely missed.

That left the Raptors without the services of Il Mago, Anthony Parker, and Jose Calderon for last night's game against Orlando. That's one starter (AP), and the top two guys off the bench. Oh, and Bargnani is a candidate for Rookie Of The Year, and should deservedly win it. This isn't good news. Not now, a month before the playoffs and at a time the Raptors need all hands on deck to secure their first division title in franchise history.

Wasn't it just yesterday the Raptors played their first game at the Skydome? They grow up so fast, these sports teams...

Back to reality - the Raps haven't exactly been tearing it up since the All-Star break. They've been inconsistent in all areas of the game and have just been blown out of the water in the rebounding department as of late. After getting beaten soundly by the Rockets and Knicks on the weekend, questions have arisen as to whether CB4 is running out of gas and whether the Raptors will be able to close out the division. Are they looking through their rear view at the Nets and Knicks? Or will they be able to show killer instinct and run away with a division they should win?

Chris Bosh answered those questions tonight with a dominating performance. And he was helped along the way by TJ Ford. Guys are going to have to step up in the absence of Calderon, Parker and now Bargnani, but it's going to come down to the team's best players, Bosh and Ford, to lead the way, and they certainly did last night.

Kris Humphries, Mo Pete, Juan Dixon and Joey Graham are all going to see increased minutes due to all the injuries. Humphries has been good off the bench this year and I think he deserves some more playing time. He can run the floor, something Hoffa could never really do. TJ Ford loves to make late passes when nobody is expecting it, and I've seen Humphries catch the ball and take it to the rim. If that were Hoffa, Ford's pass would probably hit him in the head. I still can't believe the Utah Jazz traded Kris Humphries for Rafael Araujo. Idiots.

Graham and Mo Pete really need to step it up. Mo Pete has seen his minutes go down significantly since the arrival of Juan Dixon, and it's been the right decision. MP3 - another weak, weak nickname - isn't playing with a lot of confidence right now and needs to get into a rhythm down the stretch, especially in the absence of Parker. Mo Pete's in a funk right now and although he probably will leave as a free agent this summer, he needs to finish the season with some "umph" so he can sign a big money contract in the off-season.

Speaking of Anthony Parker, this guy has just been phenomenal. I think with all the injuries - especially the big one to CB4 at the start of the year - Parker has really solidified himself as a marquee player on this team. He's been starting all year and deservedly so. He's better than Mo Pete. He's a tremendous defender and great from beyond the arc. He brings it every night and it's his consistency that keeps him in the lineup. As well as Bosh, Ford, and Bargnani have played all year, when it comes time to pick a Raptors MVP, I think Anthony Parker seriously deserves some consideration.

And how about the trade that brought in Juan Dixon? Bryan Colangelo, you've truly outdone yourself this time. High Five!

What a trade. Honestly, Colangelo for Prime Minister. He fixed the mess known as the Toronto Raptors, people. In only one year! I don't think the magnitude of this accomplishment is truly being appreciated. If this guy can fix the Raptors I see no reason as to why he cannot lead our country.

Fred Jones who? Dixon has fit into this team right from the start and it's like he's been a Raptor all season. He's shooting almost 50% from the floor in his new Raptors uniform, and has hit some big shots in a number of games. When Calderon went down and Darrick Martin was in-active, Dixon even logged minutes at the point. He's versatile and a solid option off the bench. The Raptors are going to need his production even more now that Bargnani is out.

As for Joey Graham, it seems as though he is still an enigma. Doug Smith says it best - you just don't know which Joey you're going to get on any given night, Good Joey or Bad Joey. He's so athletic and everyone can see all the potential, but he just hasn't put it all together yet. Hopefully increased minutes in important games down the stretch will help him out.

The Raptors bench has been it's strongest element all year. This team is leading their division because they are able to score. They just have too many options. But, like any team, they have their weaknesses. Glaring weaknesses. Ok, really glaring weaknesses. The Toronto Raptors can't rebound. Well, they can some nights, but most of the time, they can't. I know, it's a problem...but they can shoot the ball really well!

Now that the injury plague has spread to the Raptors, guys have to step up. It's simple. Just like guys did for the Maple Leafs. It's the nature of sports. However, it will still come down to Chris Bosh and TJ Ford. These guys are going to play more minutes too, and if last night was any indication, the Raptors will be alright.

Bosh had a double-double in the first half and Ford racked up another 12 assists. After struggling for while there after his foot injury, TJ Ford has gotten an emission test or something, because he's running great right now. His dribble-drive, although erratic and out of control at times, is really breaking down defenses and Ford is finding the open man for the open shot. He plays the point like a point guard should, and when he's running like this he's fun to watch.

As for Bargnani, I'm kind of worried about him. His injury conjures up memories of Alex Rios, circa 2006. Rios was having a breakout campaign for the Jays and finally hitting for power before a freak staph infection caused him to miss a month of action. He came back in August and only hit two home runs the rest of the year. His average also plummeted around 15 to 20 points. He lost his mojo.

Andrea Bargnani, over the last two months, certainly has had his mojo going. He was just getting more and more confident with each and every game. I'm beginning to fall in love with the lanky Italian's sweet stroke - those deep three ball's are a beauty. I'm hoping the time off won't mess with his head, like it did to Alex Rios. The Raptors need Il Mago to return to the lineup in the form he's displayed in what has been a marvellous rookie season. Get well soon, Andrea.

Back to last night. After knocking the Magic out of Orlando, the Raptors have a six game lead atop the Atlantic Division. Their magic number sits at nine. Although they're banged up, and are a young team heading down the stretch run, they will get the job done. I know it's a little early, but I'm going to make like Chuck Swirsky and bring out the salami and cheese, because this division race is over mama! The Raptors will be the 2006-2007 Atlantic Division Champions.

There will be playoff basketball come April. Chris Bosh and TJ Ford will lead the way.

It's guaranteed.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 19, 2007

Tough Weekend

The Leafs love to do things the hard way. If they do end up making the playoffs, it's going to be the hard way. Road games on the weekend against the Capitals and the Habs were supposed to be money in the bank. But, of course not, because it's never that easy with the Leafs.

A 5-1 loss to the Capitals, who hadn't won a game in nearly a month, and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Habs - another shootout loss to Montreal, the fourth of the season. That's four points the Leafs have handed Montreal, and had the Leafs picked up the extra points, they'd be in 6th place in the Eastern Conference tonight.

The whole team stunk up the joint against the Capitals, but Raycroft really dropped the ball against the Habs. The first goal was a stinker and Raycroft was made to look foolish yet again in the shootout.

The book's out on this guy, and everyone freakin' has a copy. It's called "Deke." A short story. Quite entertaining, actually. Anyways, Koivu and Kostitsyn, the final two Montreal shooters, both beat Raycroft with the same deke, and Kostitsyn really had him fooled. Raycroft practically made like a damn soccer goalie and guessed left, and guessed wrong. Kostitsyn had a yawning right side, and made no mistake. Raycroft's a sucker for a simple head-fake. It's just too easy. Once again, he didn't use the poke check when the shooters got in-tight. It's unbelievable.

Sundin scored on his shootout attempt, and like during most shootouts for Toronto, he's the only one that finds the twine. However, the Leafs are right at the league average for shootout goals. It's Raycroft that is killing them. He's letting in 40% of shootout attempts. The only shootout the Leafs beat the Habs in was when Aubin was between the pipes.

Unfathomably, the Leafs enter the new week still only one point out of 8th spot in the East. Toronto is only 4 points out of 6th spot, with a game in hand on the Lightning. Tampa Bay is by no means in the clear.

The Leafs consistent inconsistency has continued. They've actually put together some decent home games of late, but now have seemingly lost their ability to play on the road. It's either one or the other.

Kaberle should be back this week, thank God. He's been sorely missed in all aspects of the game. This guy is so much more than just a power play magician. He's been a durable guy over the years and when he's not in the lineup, his absence is profound.

Get well, get well soon, we wan't you to get well.

And Poni's been stuck on 18 goals for a while now. For him to get three in 10 games is going to be tough. I definitely need one two-goal game from him, and then an empty netter. It's possible, but I need him to break out of this slump. Come on Poni! Please!

There's 10 games left in the season. Twenty points still up for grabs. I think the Leafs need 15 points to assure themselves of post-season play. That's asking a lot. Seven wins and one shootout loss. The shootout loss is not what I'm concerned about - Raycroft will deliver that. It's the wins. Seven wins out of 10 is a daunting task. This Leafs team is all about win one, lose one, win one, lose one, win one, lose two, win one. It's a struggle.

Personally, Raycroft just isn't the goalie I want down the stretch run, or even in the heat of the playoffs, for that matter. I'm not confident, that with this guy between the pipes, the Leafs are going to beat the likes of New Jersey, Buffalo, Carolina, or New York - both the Rangers and the Islanders - in order to get this team into the post-season. He's not exactly oozing confidence either right now. He looks like he's fighting the puck and is just plain old nervous out there.

I know I've been up and down in regards to Raycroft all season. I've been flip-flopping all over the place like John Kerry. I think I have, however, come to a final decision. Frankly, I think Raycroft's a bum. But he's all the Leafs have got. But I'm still not going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He doesn't deserve it.

Prove me wrong, Raycroft.

It's still within the realm of possibility that this team can make the playoffs. I'm not sure how, or why. It's like I want this team to put the fans out of their misery. This is kind of disturbing, but I want Raycroft to feel the heat for not making the playoffs and face the realization that he may never be loved, adored and respected like those that came before him. I want him to be scared that if he doesn't deliver, he will be caste away in great shame to live out the rest of his playing days on terrible teams as a back-up, like Felix Potvin. Toronto is not going to put up with this facade of goaltending, oh no it won't (actually, it will, it has to - it's got no choice - but for dramatic effect I'll say it won't).

It's honestly like a roller-coaster watching and cheering for these guys. From the highest high of beating Ottawa in overtime, to the lowest low after getting thoroughly spanked by the lowly Washington Capitals. But - it's a new week, and there are three more games to be played. Tough games. Against bloody good teams. The march towards the playoffs continues, and I continue to beleaf, because it's all I know.

Because, like Jim Carey said when Mary Swanson told him the chances of them hooking up were about one in a million:

"So you're telling me there's a chance..."

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 13, 2007

The Comeback Kids

An article in the Toronto Star by Damien Cox today called out Mats Sundin to step up and lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs. Sundin went into tonight's tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning with only one goal, and a bunch of goal posts, in his last seven games. Cox singled out Sundin as the MVP of the Leafs, and the driver of the bus. He said the Leafs' playoff aspirations sit on the broad shoulders of the Captain.

I can't really argue with that.

I know every athlete in Toronto says they don't read the paper, but it sure seemed like Sundin found his way to the sports section of the Star today. He was a force on the ice tonight and led the Leafs to a 3-2 victory over a Tampa Bay squad that looked every bit like a team finishing up a six game road trip.

I went into tonight's game still reeling from Saturday's thrilling come from behind victory over those fun-loving Ottawa Senators. On a side note, it looks like the Sens have the same third period disease the Leafs have suffered from this season. They've been blowing leads left, right and centre recently. It's been fun to watch.

What a comeback by the Leafs Saturday night. They dominated the Senators in all facets of the game and just never quit, even after what seemed like a back-breaking goal by Dany Heatley to close out the second period. Boyd Devereaux and Nik Antropov scored clutch goals in the third period and who better than Darcy Tucker to finish the game in overtime? He loves to score goals and when they're in overtime, against the Senators, it's hard not to go buck wild.

I was up at the cottage Saturday night, and was without a cable connection. I set up shop with a radio and AM 640 and it was sheer euphoria when I heard Joe Bowen call Tucker's overtime winning goal. Another improbable comeback, and another two huge points in the standings.

Tucker's been back for four games, including tonight vs Tampa, and he's got two goals and an assist. Both his goals have been game-winners. He was missed.

Tonight against Tampa Bay the Leafs came out strong once again, but fell behind by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. But like it's been all season with this team, they simply refuse to quit. The Leafs battled back on goals by Chad Kilger, on a great pass by Kyle Wellwood, and Mats Sundin.

Kilger's goal was all about the pass from Wellwood. It was a beautiful saucer pass in tight quarters. Wellwood is the true definition of a playmaker. He makes plays. He's called the Little Magician for a reason because everytime he's on the ice he makes something happen. This guy is just ready to blossom into a bonafide star in the NHL. He's got so much talent and it's great to see him back in the lineup. He really adds another dimension of much-needed skill to this team.

Sundin's goal was all about persistence and dogged determination. He had the puck behind the net, deked out Ponikarovsky, two Tampa defenders and then put it low glove side on Denis. It was a huge goal that tied up the match heading into the third. Sundin was a force on Saturday night, firing 11 shots on Ray Emery, and was dominant again tonight. He really took the team on his back tonight. When the Leafs see their Captain skating so hard and driving to the net with such determination, it's tough not to follow in his footsteps. The goal leaves Sundin only one behind Darryl Sittler for most goals by a Maple Leaf all time. Yet there's still people in Toronto who question this man's toughness and leadership. These people clearly are on crack. Cocaine, it's a helluva drug!

I've got to shoutout my man Nik Antropov. He tied up the hockey game Saturday night against the Sens and got the game winner tonight. He's been clutch to say the least. This guy is finally healthy - touch wood (no seriously, if you're reading this please touch some wood, for Antropov's, and my, sake) - and playing some of the best hockey of his career. He's using his body to shield the puck and going to the dirty areas of the offensive zone. I've said it before and I'll say it again, at $1 million a season Antropov is a ridiculous bargain. He'll be an unrestricted this summer and I definitely want to see Nikky back in a Leafs uniform next season.

I've also got to shout out Andrew Raycroft. It was a tough game for him because he barely saw any rubber in the first two periods. The Leafs were all over the Lightning through the first 40 minutes thanks to an incredibly aggressive and effective forecheck. But once the Leafs took the lead midway through the third it was all Tampa Bay. They came on strong and Raycroft stood tall, making a number of saves in order to assure the Leafs of victory. Lecavalier did hit the post with a minute left to play, but like a friend always used to say, the goalie's always only got to cover what he needs to. And it's about freakin time the Leafs caught a lucky break.

Speaking of Raycroft, Glenn Healy made an incredible comment on the broadcast tonight. Raycroft is only five wins away from setting a Leafs record for most wins in a season.

Go ahead, grab your jaw off the floor. I had to do the same.

Got it? Good. I know. It's hard to believe. But I guess that's what happens when he plays almost every game. At the end of the day, he's winning. That's all that matters.

Perreault, O'Neill and Steen all saw less than eight minutes of ice time tonight. Stajan, on the other hand, saw more than 15 minutes of ice time. I don't get it. I really don't. But it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters right now is the two points, and the Leafs got em.

It's tough not to look at the standings right now, especially with such an intense race for the final two playoff spots being waged. The Leafs sit in 9th place after their win tonight, and still control their own destiny. The standings don't matter because the Leafs just have to keep winning games. If they win, everything else will take care of itself.

The Leafs swept the season series with the Lightning this year, going 4-0. They came back from behind in each and every game.

It's a testament to the attitude of this team. They just never quit. Paul Maurice said it best, it's tough to not root for a team that simply refuses to give up, especially when the odds are stacked against them.

The Leafs have dealt with a ridiculous amount of injuries. They are near the top of the NHL in man-games lost to injury. All the other teams that have been dealt as many injuries as the Leafs are no where near the playoffs. Yet here we are, 70 games into the season, and the Leafs are in the thick of the race, one point behind Carolina for that 8th spot.

The Leafs have dealt with goaltending questions all year as well. The only consistent part of Raycroft's game is his inconsistency. I've been one of the many people who have been calling for Aubin to get more game action. But Maurice has done his best to quell a goaltending controversy. Razor is the number one guy and now I've bought into Maurice's faith. Raycroft is the guy, no matter how inconsistent he is, and I think he should play every game left from here on out.

The Leafs specialty teams have been atrocious. The penalty kill has been near the bottom all season, and that's not going to change. The Leafs can't kill penalties. There's no penalty killing switch the Leafs can turn on. They simply suck at it. The only solution is to stop taking penalties.

The power play was strong and effective to start the year but has gone into one helluva tailspin. Injuries have ruined the chemistry on the PP and the Leafs are now just average with the extra man. The power play used to be the strongest part of the Leafs' game! It's amazing how unproductive it has become.

On a related note, this Leafs team is markedly better 5 on 5 than it was last year. The team's 5 on 5 play was it's most glaring weakness last season, but John Ferguson Jr. rectified the problem this season. Yet he doesn't really get any credit for doing that, and I think that has something to do with the special teams being so poor. I guess it's one or the other for JFJ.

My point is with so many injuries and such weak special teams, how the hell are the Leafs still in this race? It comes down to passion and hard work. And that is what Paul Maurice is all about. This Leafs team is full of passion and pride. On many nights, passion can take a team just as far, if not farther, than talent alone. It's an extremely valuable asset to have, and this Leafs team has it in abundance.

By the way, how about the signing of Boyd Devereaux? JFJ deserves some serious props for that one. He's been a productive player at both ends of the rink.

I think the Leafs deserve some serious credit for still just being in this race. The win tonight simply keeps them in the race. They played with a lot of energy and passion tonight and they have no choice but to keep it up if they want to make the playoffs.

The Ottawa Senators, up 3-1 on the Leafs going into the third period Saturday night, had a chance to dig the nail into the coffin on the Leafs' season. But the Leafs refused to go silently into the night. They weren't going to have it. They battled, they fought, and they needed a few extra minutes, but they got to the two points.

That's all that matters.

Twelve games remain. That's 24 points still available. The Leafs control their own destiny. Weekend road dates with the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens await. They are games the Leafs should, and need to, win.

This team won't roll over and die, and I'm proud of em. They are resilient.

Paul Maurice is right - it is tough not to cheer for this team; a blue collar team that just refuses to throw in the towel. Sundin, Tucker and McCabe simply won't let this team fold. They will not go quietly into the night.

I, on the other hand, will.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 07, 2007

Defying Logic

The Leafs went into tonight's tilt with the Washington Capitals on the heels of a difficult week. They lost three out of four games, and they were important games - I guess all of them are this time of year. They also lost their best defenceman and, arguably, their best player in Tomas Kaberle.

How would they react in a must-win game against a struggling opponent with no hope of making the playoffs? Would they finally put together a decent home game?

What would you do if you were Paul Maurice? I know what I would do. I'd ride my horses - I'd play the hell out of Sundin, McCabe and Perreault. No Panic Yanic was brought in to score some goals, and I'd give him that chance.

It seems Paul Maurice and I were on a different page tonight. Hell, we weren't even reading the same book.

Sundin played less than five minutes in the first period, and finished with a touch less than 18 minutes of ice time - well below his season average. I would have thrown Sundin out there for at least 10 minutes in the first period, to make sure the Leafs came out strong and controlled the play.

What's even more shocking is the fact that Matt Stajan played 17:39, second among Leaf forwards and second to only the Captain.

Matt freaking Stajan.

Once again, he did nothing tonight. It's amazing how much Stajan's ice time has gone up this year, and his point totals haven't. Stajan defines stagnation. Matt Stagnation Stajan. I like it.

It does seem like he's working hard, but the results just aren't there. I just don't like him. Yes, he's set a career high for points, but I don't think he's hit double digits in goals yet. It's just not there, and I'm afraid I will forever be a Stajan-hater. I don't know what the Leafs see in him.

What's even more shocking than Stajan's ice time - yes, apparently things can be more shocking than that - Yanic Perreault, the Leafs' prized trade deadline acquisition, played six minutes and fifty-one seconds tonight.


That's it. And he scored the second goal, and it was a beauty.

I said it the other night in my post - every instinct that would seem to be correct in regards to this Leafs team, is wrong. You would think logic would deem that in order to finally secure a win on home ice, the Leafs would play their best players. But no. Paul Maurice did the opposite, like George Costanza, and it worked. A 3-0 Leafs victory over the hapless Washington Capitals and for now, sole posession of 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

I don't get it. I really don't. But the Leafs picked up the dubya, and that's all that matters at the end of the night.

However, less than seven minutes of ice time for Perreault? For the love of God, play the man. Give him Stajan's 17 minutes. The Leafs won the game, and all credit goes to Maurice and his staff, but when it comes to these two guys the Leafs have it all wrong right now. Perreault's faceoff ability alone should result in him playing more than Stajan, the useless wonder.

Tucker and Perreault both bagged their 20th goals of the season tonight. Tucker's was probably the ugliest goal the Leafs have scored all season, as a rebound from John Pohl's shot went off Darcy's arm and into the net. It was a big goal though, as it came after the Leafs were unable to score on a two-man advantage for more than a minute and a half.

Speaking of the power play, what the hell has happened to it? The Leafs have had a top-five ranked power play the last two seasons but the power play now sits in 15th spot in the league. Tucker and Wellwood have sorely been missed in the last two months, and that's when the PP has plummeted. Now, without Kaberle to bring the puck up ice, and set up inside the zone, the PP is just a struggle. Nobody is moving around out there or going to the front of the net. On the two-man advantage tonight the Leafs didn't even register one quality scoring chance. It was difficult to watch. With Kaberle out of the lineup, McCabe is on his wrong wing and doesn't have Kabby setting him up for the one-timer. Ian White is doing is best out there, and he's got extremely huge - Shaq size huge - shoes to fill.

Personally, I'd have put Kubina out there with Mccabe. But what the hell do I know.

I've got to shout out Kubina. He came back into the lineup tonight and played a solid 17 minutes and picked up an assist. He said publicly that his broken finger is not 100% but that he'll play through the pain because he knows the Leafs need him out there right now. That's how to do it, Pavel. He's putting the team first. This guy is a team player, and he really wants to succeed, both on a team and personal level. He knows he's had a nightmare of a season, but all that can be forgotten if he plays some great hockey down the stretch. Attaboy, Kubina. His return is huge, especially since it looks like Kabby is going to be out for a while.

Kyle Wellwood - remember him? - skated today in practice and said that he'll be back in the lineup next Tuesday when Tampa Bay is in town. That's encouraging news for the Leafs, who could definitely use the diminutive playmaker back in the lineup. God knows the power play needs him.

This is how the Leafs season has gone thus far. One guy comes back, and then another guy gets injured. The Leafs have lost close to 300 man games to injury this year - tops in the NHL. Their penalty kill has been at the bottom of the league for months, and their power play, which was once their strongest aspect, is now just average.

Paul Maurice said at the start of the season that it was going to be a dog fight to get into the playoffs. I figured that would be the case if everything went right for the Leafs. It hasn't been that way. Injuries have ravaged this team. It's hard to believe that with all the Leafs have gone through - the injuries, the goaltending questions, the lacklustre special teams - they are still fighting to make the second season. This team refuses to quit.

The Battle of Ontario resumes Thursday night in Ottawa and Saturday night in Toronto. As hard as the Leafs have battled all year, the Senators can make it all for not and really do some damage to Toronto's playoff dreams.

Ottawa has overcome a lot of adversity this season, and have gotten their house in order. They sit in fifth place in the conference and have been on a tear as of late. Ray Emery has proven to be more than a capable number one goaltender, and fighter/shit-disturber. Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are two of the most talented forwards in the league, and I've always said that I'd love to see Mike Fisher in a Leafs uniform.

The Sens are a good team and are headed to the post season once again. The Leafs need to be thinking about a split in the home-and-home. They simply can't afford to lose both games.

Ottawa does look like the better team, but the Leafs have the uncanny ability of finding ways to win in order to stay in this playoff race. Wins that defy logic.

Maybe playing the hell out of Stajan is the answer. I don't know, and I HIGHLY doubt it, but it worked tonight. Heck, even Raycroft got a shutout tonight.

Now that, my friends, is defying logic.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 04, 2007


The Leafs were a busy team this weekend. A road victory in the Swamp over the Devils via the dreaded shootout, and another whipping at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres on home ice.

Here are my deep thoughts:

- Cam Janssen is, for lack of a better phrase, a piece of shit. Tomas Kaberle, my heart and soul, was drilled by this pathetic excuse of a hockey player, and it was ugly. Kabby was knocked out cold and was taken off on a stretcher. It was a late hit, and an elbow, and there was no penalty on the play. That was the first thing that pissed me off. On top of that, nobody on the Leafs team said a word to Janssen about it. It was partly a good thing, because the Leafs could ill-afford to take stupid retaliation penalties in a big game, which last night was. But when your best defenseman gets knocked out cold on a dirty hit from a goon, someone's got to step up. It's Kabby after all. He's not exactly a physical presence out there.

It was revealed, however, that Darcy Tucker came out of the Leafs dressing room while Kabby was being attended to, and started jawing at Janssen from the tunnel. That, my friends, is exactly why Darcy Tucker is one of the most popular Maple Leafs. He steps up for his teammates. Stay classy, Darcy.

Janssen didn't play a shift after ravaging Kaberle. He played a total of 2.59 on the game. This guy is in the NHL? And he thinks he's a tough guy? What tough guy goes after Tomas Kaberle and devastates him with a late elbow? There should be none of this in hockey. It's a disgrace. I'm all for fighting in hockey - because when Iginla and Jason Smith go at it in the heat of battle, it's a beautiful thing - but the one-dimensional enforcer has got to go.

- Talk about an extremely improbable win, eh? Down Tomas Kaberle and down 2-0 going into the third period, the Leafs rally for three goals, on Martin Brodeur no less, to take the lead. They then blow the lead when New Jersey pulls Brodeur for the extra man, in typical Maple Leafs fashion. They then squander a 4 on 3 powerplay in overtime, and then score three goals in the shootout to win the game 4-3.

- If you saw the shootout, now you know why he's called "No Panic Yanic" Perreault. A phenomenal shootout goal that left my jaw on the floor. He faked the slapshot which got Brodeur on his knees and going to his right. Perreault dragged the puck across to his forehand, and just when it looked like there wasn't enough space left for him to shoot it past a sprawling Marty Brodeur, he put it top shelf where mommy hides the cookies! Not only was it a fantastic deke, it was clutch. Had he missed it, the game was over. No Panic, indeed. Perreault won the majority of his faceoffs on the night as well. Instant dividends for our dearest John Ferguson Jr.

- Huge two points in the standings against the Devils. But a costly win. A very costly win. Janssen's been suspended three games by the league, but that doesn't do any justice to Toronto, as Kabby's going to miss probably two weeks. He's got a concussion, and that's not surprising considering the way his head slammed into the boards. Damn you Cam Janssen, damn you.

- Another emotionless and uninspiring performance on home ice against the injured Buffalo Sabres. In two games on home ice this week against Buffalo, the Leafs were outscored 9-2 and just thoroughly outworked in every facet of the game. I just can't seem to wrap my head around the reason as to why the Leafs came out so flat tonight. It's unacceptable.

- Two guys who haven't been in the starting lineup for a long time were back in there tonight. Darcy Tucker was surprisingly in the lineup and J.S. Aubin, the forgotten man himself, actually got a start for the first time in two months. I wasn't expecting Tucker back for another couple of weeks, and figured it would give the Leafs a boost since Kabby was gone. But of course not, that would just be too logical. The Leafs are clearly like George Costanza - every instinct this team has which would seem to be correct, is always wrong.

Tucker saw limited duty on the 4th line and on the power play in the first two periods, but in the third, with the Leafs again down 2-0 and looking for a spark, he saw some more ice. He played just under 16 minutes on the night. It's great to have him back, and hopefully Tuesday he'll be on a line with someone other than the offensively challenged Travis Green.

Tucker's a warrior. I'm sure he's playing through some pain, but I'm sure he's been dying to get back onto the ice and help the team make the playoffs. I'm quite pleased that JFJ got his name on a contract for only $3 million per season. Tucker's worth a lot more than that, and I think even he knows it. A true blue Maple Leaf, that's what he is.

- Aubin played a decent game. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't very good either. He was pretty much just like Raycroft. Three goals a game. It's the standard, I guess. And once again, it just wasn't good enough. Raycroft will be back in there Tuesday night against Ovechkin and the Capitals. Another must win game on home ice. Grab some pine, again, J.S.

- In the absence of my main man Kabby, Ian White logged more than 26 minutes of ice time, and was on the number one power play. All I could think of when I saw the box score was HOLY ICE TIME BATMAN! That's way too much for Ian White. The Leafs once again employed the five defenseman strategy, as Waddy Belak was dressed as the sixth d-man, but only saw about five minutes of action. White's been great on the back end, for the most part, this year, but he's not capable of playing those minutes. He was a -2 on the evening, and that speaks volumes.

- I have to shout out Wade Belak, believe it or not. It's tough to do his job, but he does it, night in and night out. He's versatile and the fact that he can play both the wing and defense on any given night is a testament to that. Not many guys can do what he does. He comes in and only plays a few minutes every night, whether its on offence or defence, and he's physical. Yeah, he takes way too many penalties, but it takes a certain mental toughness and a professional attitude to do the job he does. He's supposedly really popular in the dressing room, and even I'm starting to appreciate what he does. He's our resident heavyweight, but he can play, and he's become a useful member of this team. And I like callin him Waddy.

- If the coaching staff doesn't have enough confidence in playing Belak 10-12 minutes a night as the sixth defenceman, which I understand because of his penchant to take the most bonehead penalties - Waddy, they took out the hooking and holding from the game. Yes, really! Like two years ago! - why doesn't management call up someone from the minors? Depth on defence is, as John Ferguson Jr. told the world, the strongest asset of the organization, so why the hell is Ian White playing 26 minutes a night? Call up Staffan Kronwall, or Jay Harrison.

What really pokes my brain is why the Leafs have never called up the captain of the Marlies, Marc Moro. He's been with the organization for a number of years now, and was team captain when they were still in St. Johns. What's the deal? The guy's a veteran and surely is capable of playing 10-12 minutes a night. He's a big fella too and would provide some more sandpaper to the back end, which is never a bad thing.

Don't tell me, Johnny boy, that Brendan Bell is expendable because the organization has got so many other young and able defenseman who are NHL-ready. If that's the case, call one of them up when two out of your top three defencemen - Kabby and Kubby - are injured! The Leafs are absolutely infuriating.

- I am utterly fed up of the booing of Bryan McCabe. I don't give a rats ass if anybody in this city thinks he is overpaid. Who cares? He got what was market value last summer, and without him, the Leafs would be in serious trouble. Yes, he's prone to turnovers and takes some questionable penalties, but he works hard. He's got almost 50 points and is a plus hockey player. When he's on the ice, the Leafs score more than they are scored upon. What else do you want for the guy? If the opinion is that he is overpaid, how about you take into consideration that guys like Tomas Kaberle and Darcy Tucker are underpaid? Let that balance it out. I'm just sick of the treatment this guy is getting, because it's not justified. He is not the god damn problem. In the third period tonight McCabe got clipped with a high stick and was bleeding profusely above his eye. He went to the bench for some quick repairs and was right back on the ice. He was rushing the puck from the Leafs zone with blood pouring down his face. Is that not heart, grit and determination right there? This guy wants to win, and in the process he does make some mistakes, but lets be reasonable here people. He's a great hockey player and I think the Leafs are lucky to have him. Stop booing Bryan McCabe.

- Even after losing three out of four games against Eastern Conference opponents this week, the Leafs still sit only two points behind the Carolina Tropical Storms for 8th place in the standings. Unbelievable. It was an immensely important week of games, and the Leafs did not fare well, yet still the playoffs are within reach. The back end of the Eastern Conference is rather mediocre, and that bodes well for Toronto, who are mediocre on their best nights.

Even Mats Sundin looked sluggish and tired in the games this week. I just don't know if he's got it in him to go on another crazy run like he did last year, and take the team to the playoffs. Astonishingly, the Leafs head into next week only two points out of the final playoff spot, just like they did last weekend. Someone can still step up and grab this team by throat. Mats is the most logical option, but I already got into the relationship between logic and the Leafs.

The road isn't getting easier. Washington is in town on Tuesday, and then a home-and-home with the Ottawa Senators. If Toronto drops the Washington contest, the Senators could potentially put the "nail in the coffin" on the Leafs' season, NBA Jam on Nintendo style.

And I'm sure there's nothing they'd love more.

Goodnight, Toronto...

March 01, 2007

The End Is Near

The Leafs had a day off today. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a few of the boys hit up Golf Town, to get an early start on some shopping. Golf season is just about upon us, and once again, the Leafs are going to be the first guys out on the links.

Talk about stinking up the joint in a couple of huge games. It's been an interesting few days, to say the least. Two huge losses to the Habs and Sabres have dealt the Leafs' playoff aspirations a huge blow. Not to mention all the drama from Tuesday's trading deadline.

John Ferguson Jr., in an absolutely shocking move, acquired a former Leaf before the 3 pm deadline. "No Panic" Yanic Perreault is returning to the blue and white, for his third tour of duty. See ya later, Brendan Bell. This guy fell so far off the defensive depth chart, he was playing left wing. When you get jumped on the depth chart by Wozniewski, you've got some problems.

Finally, by dealing for Perreault, the Leafs have seen the light and realized that Matt Stajan is no second line centre. Toronto has nothing that resembles secondary scoring, and this is a good trade, although it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Perreault will help because he's such a great faceoff man, and he's got 19 goals, which puts him third on the Leafs. He's unrestricted at the end of the year, and likely won't be back. I think it's a good trade, but I wonder why Ferguson didn't make it happen two months ago, right after Peca went down with his injury. It's simply too late.

Perreault wasn't in the lineup Tuesday night, and unless he knows how to play goalie, it didn't really matter. I was shocked to see Raycroft back in net Tuesday night, after his pathetic performance in arguably the biggest game of the year on Monday in Montreal. He let in five goals on 15 shots in Montreal, and four goals on 11 shots against Buffalo. Atrocious goaltending.
Paul Maurice has done a great job this season, but he totally dropped the ball in going back to Raycroft Tuesday night. Razor did not deserve to start. You don't put in a performance like he did and just be handed the reigns once again the night after.

What angers me most is that there is just no accountability on this Leafs team. Why wasn't Raycroft held accountable for his performance? Why was he allowed to just go back in there? He clearly doesn't have the intensity or desire that is required to play goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He just doesn't have it. He's not a number one goalie.

The Andrew Raycroft experiment has been a failure. He isn't the right man for the job. It's inconceivable to me why he was in the net on Tuesday night against the Sabres, and it goes back to the start of the season, when he was handed the number one job while not being deserving of it. Raycroft has been the goalie of choice, yet he hasn't had to even work for the job. It's bullshit, and the Leafs season is lost because of Razor's poor play.

The Leafs have their best defense, on paper, in years. Yet Raycroft has given them AHL-calibre goaltending. He let three soft goals against the Habs. Granted, three out of the five were scored on the power play, and one came off the stick of Sheldon Souray. That guy's slapshot can kill you, so I'll give any goalie props for standing in front of it - I'd have been running away screaming like a schoolgirl. But at the end of the night, he just wasn't good enough.

It's sad, because against the Habs, Aebischer was terrible. Yet Raycroft still wasn't as good. He is constantly outgoaltendered, yet it doesn't seem to faze anyone on the Leafs.

I hope once Razor got yanked from the Sabres game, he was watching Ryan Miller and taking notes. Miller is a number one goalie, and a playoff goalie. He kept the Sabres, who were missing eight regulars from their lineup, alive in the first period, making great save after great save, until the Sabres were able to score a softy on Raycroft. There's your difference, right there.

There's no point in bitching about the Leafs anymore. To be a playoff team, you've got to have the stats to back it up. The Leafs are done. Raycroft's save percentage is a mediocre .895. Toronto has let in 72 goals on the power play, second last in the league. Their penalty killing, at 78.8%, is 26th in the league. They have the second-worst home record in the Eastern Conference.

Really, how good can the Leafs be when their last line of defense is Andrew Raycroft. That's not even a "last line", Raycroft is hardly a scribble.

And I'm just so sick and tired of the fans getting on Bryan McCabe. This guy plays upwards of 26 minutes a night, has almost 50 points and is a plus player. Yes, he makes a lot of money, but that's not his fault. I think we all would have signed that contract had it been passed across the table to us. Get over it. He is not the problem. Raycroft is the problem. The thought process that goes into believing Matt Stajan is a second line centre is the problem. Not McCabe. Save your boos. Use them on Raycroft.

And coming up? Friday a date with Brodeur and the Devils and Saturday another visit from the Sabres. That will be four losses in a row, and then the Leafs can officially say goodnight. Hopefully J.S. Aubin will be in goal, and Jeremy Williams in the Leafs lineup.

Another disturbing tidbit: The game with the Sabres ended with Sundin playing on a line with

Bates Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux. Wow. You sure you want to stick around, Mats?

Get those golf clubs ready, boys. As the old saying goes: Golf Leafs Golf!


How about the trading deadline. I just love trade deadline day. It's intense. I find it amazing that all three major sports networks devote a whole day's worth of programming to the event. That's really what it's become - an event.

It was an eventful day and a lot of names changed teams, but the shocker of all came down at 3 pm, with the announcement that the Oilers had traded Captain Canada Ryan Smyth, to the Islanders, of all teams.

Nobody, especially Ryan Smyth, saw this one coming.

It happened on Mark Messier Day in Edmonton no less, as his jersey was raised to the rafters Tuesday night.

Smyth had a going-away press conference at Edmonton International Airport today. Yeah, pretty strange. He was extremely emotional, to say the least. He was balling like a little baby. News dropped today that the two sides were only $200 thousand dollars a year apart on a deal. Smyth was asking for $5.7 while Edmonton countered at $5.4. Not exactly a huge difference. Not a huge difference when it comes to the face of the Oilers franchice, and their heart and soul. If that really is the case, it's extremely shocking a deal didn't get done.

I think Smyth must have thought Kevin Lowe was bluffing. He did not seem like a guy who truly believed that there was any chance he could be traded. I just can't believe they didn't meet in the middle. A guy like Darcy Tucker, who isn't even from Toronto, gave the Leafs a discount in order to make sure he could stay here. Gotta love Darcy - thank you, Tucks! I'm surprised Alberta boy and cowboy extraordinaire Ryan Smyth didn't just give the Oilers a discount and get the deal done.

Smyth's farewell press conference was weak. He was clearly in way too emotional a state to be addressing the media, but it had to be done. He said something along the lines of "I want to win a Stanley Cup with New York, and then bring it back to Edmonton, because this is where my heart is." Who says that? I found that extremely odd. I mean, what would his new teammates think?

As for the trade, I think the Oilers got a great return for a rental player. Three first round draft picks is a steep price to pay for a rental. I guess the Islanders are desperately seeking credibility and a trip to the post-season, and it's a good deal for them in those regards. Smyth should be a great acquisition and get them into the playoffs. It's just going to be weird seeing him in the ugly Islanders uniform.

As for his future, I can see him going back to Edmonton. I think the chances of him stayin on the Island are slim to none.

I've got to give Kevin Lowe some credit. He doesn't put any player above the franchise. He made a ruthless decision to trade Smyth, and knew the backlash it would cause. But he's a man of principal, and he truly believes in what he's doing. He's got a couple of huge balls to pull a deal like that off.

It's just got to be rough to be an Oilers fan, eh? I thought us Leafs fans had it bad. First, you lose game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Then you watch as the team trades all-world defenseman Chris Pronger. And now Ryan Smyth. Ouch. Must be rough!

But I say screw the Oilers. I don't care about their problems. Ryan Smyth would look great in a Maple Leafs jersey. The Leafs should have a contract printed out for him by now, ready to hand to him at the stroke of midnight on July 1st.


Big win by the Raptors tonight against T-Mac and the Rockets in Houston. The Raps shot 60% in the first half and dominated the best defensive team in the NBA. The scoring was extremely balanced, and Kris Humphries finished with 16 points, on 7 of 7 shooting, with 6 boards and 2 dimes. The Hump brought it tonight.

Bargnani led the Raptors with 20 points and just keeps getting better and better.
I thank the Lord above each and every night for the Raptors. They make the Leafs struggles easier to swallow.

Like I said, I'm done bitching about the Leafs. I've got the Raptors and Jays to worry about. I'm at peace with the Leafs' season, and the fact that it will come to an end without a trip to the playoffs. The dream is dead, until next September, when I'll go through it all over again.

Goodnight, Toronto...